James Henry: Making the Most of It
Call him clutch, call him a super sub, or call him Thunder Rookie of the Year, but any way you slice it James Henry has blossomed into a big goal scorer when the Thunder have needed him to be.
“I’m trying to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been handed,” says Henry. “I want to help the team out any way I can.”
Oddly enough, two of the three games he’s played in the post season he started the game as the 10th forward, seeing much less ice time than he grew accustomed to in the regular season, but for his first two games, he saw his captain and fellow former Vancouver Giant Garet Hunt make an early exit, thus, thrusting Henry into action.
“He stays very ready all the time and works hard in practice and after practice to keep himself ready,” explains Head Coach Rich Kromm. “His attitude is great for being in and out of the lineup like he has been, and for him to make those big contributions is a testament to the character that he has.”
The first time that Henry was called upon was Game 4 in Ontario when the forward was acting as the 10th forward. With his captain ejected from the game, Henry saw a bunch of ice time including the ensuing 5-minute penalty kill the Thunder found themselves in.
Not only did Henry help kill off the long Ontario power play chance (allowing only two shots) he came out at the beginning of the third period and scored the tying goal to help turn the tide in Game 4 and help push the Thunder to their first round sweep of the second seeded Reign.
“That’s how you’re going to have to win in the playoffs ,” says linemate Riley Wetmore. “When you have guys that are injured, you’ll have to have guys that come in and elevate their games. Henry’s obviously shown that this year being voted as the team’s Rookie of the Year.”
Despite the big momentum shift that Henry was directly a part of, he found himself out of the lineup once again, but after two Bakersfield wins, Coach decided to go back to the hard working, and hard nosed player in Game 3 at home.
With Hunt leaving the game with an injury Henry’s workload was again going to increase, and with the game tied at one in the second period, the Thunder found themselves staring down another big penalty kill.
The puck was dumped down the ice but defenseman Ben Rosen continued to apply pressure to the Bakersfield defenseman, forcing him to chip the puck up the boards eventually falling for Henry flying onto the ice. Henry walked in and went top shelf on the confident Condors goalie Laurent Brossoit gaining the lead for the Thunder, a lead they’d never surrender.
“That’s a spot that Henry’s found a few times,” says Kromm. “He doesn’t get an awful lot of credit for being an offensive guy, but he’s scored many big goals for us this year, including the two he’s had in the playoffs.”
With Hunt missing some time and the Thunder down the minimum number of 16 players and 2 goaltenders, Henry will be playing for the forseable future, and will be relied upon to continue to play solid, two-way hockey while contributing offensively.
“There’s always lineup changes and I wanted to make the most of my opportunity,” says Henry. “I felt like there are always going to be injuries, and guys going in and out of the lineup, and I just felt like I had to be ready at any time.”
For such a young player, his Coach has nothing but positives to say about the rookie. “His attitude has been fantastic,” says Kromm. “He’s stayed really positive and has tried to help out in any way he can when he’s not in the lineup and of course keeps himself prepared for when he is called on. He’s so versatile in that we can play him anywhere, center, wing…even the blueline, and he’ll be good.”
So what does the rookie feel about being named the Thunder’s Rookie of the Year?
“Meant a lot to me,” says Henry. “I worked hard all year and to be recognized for my efforts in my first season of pro is a big accomplishment for me and shows that the team in here has confidence in me.”
With all the injuries, and with all the added pressure that comes with this time of year, the Thunder will need Henry to show that confidence every game, but with two big time goals in three games, the rookie will be ready, and his teammates know it.